- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2000

Teen may lose leg to bomb he built

SARASOTA, Fla. A gunpowder bomb exploded as a 15-year-old was assembling the device in his bedroom, causing injuries that may cost him his left leg and some fingers, authorities said.

Investigators do not know why the teen was building the bomb, "but we don't believe it had anything to do with the vice president being here," said Chuck Lesaltato, sheriff's spokesman. Vice President Al Gore was in Sarasota preparing for his debate today with George W. Bush.

The boy's parents found him in his room after being awakened by an explosion late Sunday, Mr. Lesaltato said.

The bomb was made of gunpowder and match heads packed into a small metal container used to hold compressed carbon dioxide gas, police said. Authorities had not determined where he learned to make the bomb.

Teen shooting suspect pleads mental illness

ATLANTA A Georgia teen-ager charged with wounding six students during a 1999 high school shooting rampage changed his plea yesterday to include guilty but mentally ill to multiple counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations.

Thomas "T.J." Solomon, 17, who previously had pleaded guilty to 29 charges, entered the unusual double plea in Superior Court in Conyers.

Mr. Solomon's new pleas will be considered by Judge Sidney Nation, who is awaiting psychiatric evaluations of the teen. If the guilty-but-mentally-ill plea is accepted, Mr. Solomon would go to prison but receive psychiatric treatment. He faces 200 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Student loan defaults reach all-time low

The number of students who default on their college loans has dropped below 7 percent for the first time, the government said yesterday.

The rate dipped to 6.9 percent in fiscal 1998, down from 8.8 percent the previous year, according to figures released by the Education Department. Collections on defaulted loans were up, to $4 billion in 1998.

The rate has dropped each year since a peak of 22.4 percent in fiscal 1990. President Clinton attributed the ongoing decline to, among other causes, an increase in the amount of scholarships, tax credits and other financial assistance available to students.

Columbine parents want police to testify

GOLDEN, Colo. A man who thinks his stepson was killed mistakenly by police during last year's Columbine High School massacre asked yesterday that they be forced to testify so he can learn the truth.

"We hope to God that you can get those people to speak instead of them just worrying about their jobs," Rich Petrone urged a commission probing the massacre.

Mr. Petrone's stepson Danny Rohrbough was among the 13 persons killed before the gunmen committed suicide.

Yesterday's hearing was the first chance for victims and the public to testify before the Governor's Commission on Columbine, which has been holding periodic meetings to come up with recommendations to prevent a similar massacre.

Danny's family is suing Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone and other police officials, claiming that police shot the boy.

Justice takes stand, denies wrongdoing

CONCORD, N.H. New Hampshire's chief justice took the stand at his Senate impeachment trial yesterday and denied calling a lower-court judge more than a decade ago to influence a politically sensitive case.

"My memory is still as it was back in 1989, that I didn't call Judge [Douglas] Gray," Chief Justice David Brock, 64, said in the state's first impeachment trial.

Chief Justice Brock, who has held the post since 1986, faces four impeachment counts. The votes of 15 of the 22 senators participating in the trial are needed to convict him.

The 1987 case was a business dispute between a company owned by Senate majority leader Edward Dupont and another fuel company. Investigators say Chief Justice Brock called Judge Gray to tell him Mr. Dupont could help a bill raising judges' salaries.

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